Changes in myocardial stiffness may represent a valuable biomarker for early tissue injury or adverse remodeling. In this study, we developed and validated a novel transducer-free magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) approach for quantifying myocardial biomechanics using aortic valve closure-induced shear waves. Using motion-sensitized two-dimensional pencil beams, septal shear waves were imaged at high temporal resolution. Shear wave speed was measured using time-of-flight of waves travelling between two pencil beams and corrected for geometrical biases. After validation in phantoms, results from twelve healthy volunteers and five cardiac patients (two left ventricular hypertrophy, two myocardial infarcts, and one without confirmed pathology) were obtained. Torsional shear wave speed in the phantom was 3.0 ± 0.1 m/s, corresponding with reference speeds of 2.8 ± 0.1 m/s. Geometrically-biased flexural shear wave speed was 1.9 ± 0.1 m/s, corresponding with simulation values of 2.0 m/s. Corrected septal shear wave speeds were significantly higher in patients than healthy volunteers [14.1 (11.0–15.8) m/s versus 3.6 (2.7–4.3) m/s, p = 0.001]. The interobserver 95%-limits-of-agreement in healthy volunteers were ± 1.3 m/s and interstudy 95%-limits-of-agreement − 0.7 to 1.2 m/s. In conclusion, myocardial shear wave speed can be measured using aortic valve closure-induced shear waves, with cardiac patients showing significantly higher shear wave speeds than healthy volunteers. This non-invasive measure may provide valuable insights into the pathophysiology of heart failure.